Cologne Travel Guide

Cologne Travel Guide

Claudia Schwarz

When traveling to Germany, visiting Cologne might not immediately cross your mind. But prepare to be surprised; this compact city packs a punch. It is primarily known for its famous cathedral, the traditional celebration of Carnival and Eau de Cologne, which originated here. It is also the other gay capital of Germany, competing with the more obvious choice, Berlin.

Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany. The Romans founded it about two thousand years ago, making it one of the oldest large German cities. Throughout the centuries, Cologne remained a place of historical importance for trade, due to its important location on the Rhine River. During World War II the city was heavily bombed and most of its historical core was destroyed and rebuilt in the fifties and sixties. This is why modern-day Cologne has a unique architectural landscape, combining old and new. Wondering what to do in Cologne? Mr Hudson has got you covered.

The best hotels in Cologne

The QVEST hideaway Cologne is located in a beautifully restored neo-Gothic building. The grand architecture with its cathedral-like atmosphere is paired with a simple and minimalistic interior design. Classics from the fifties and sixties can be found throughout the hotel. And in every room a ‘big-name’ lamp, chair or sofa awaits, from the likes of Ray and Charles Eames.

Alternatively, the Hopper Hotel et cetera, is situated in a restored monastery and offers understated, modern interiors. Centrally located in the Belgian Quarter, an area known for its wonderful shopping and excellent nightlife. It boasts a beautiful tranquil courtyard, which is a great urban oasis in summer.

Things to do in Cologne

Visiting the Gothic Cathedral of Cologne, or “Kölner Dom, should feature on your must-see list. It is an impressive architectural masterpiece and the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. Adjacent to the Dom is the Roman-Germanic Museum with an extensive collection of artefacts from the Roman settlement on which modern Cologne is built. Right next to the museum is a short stretch of excavated Roman Street, where you can walk a street dating back to the Roman Empire.

Only steps away from the Dom, is the Rhine River and the “Altstadt”, the oldest part of Cologne. With its narrow winding streets, it feels like a movie set.

Architecture lovers should pay a visit to the Kolumba Museum, built by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. This beautiful, contemporary “living” museum as he calls it, incorporates the ruins of an old destroyed chapel and a Romanesque church within its walls.

Jürgen Eifler | Photo: Claudia Schwarz

Jürgen Eifler | Photo: Claudia Schwarz

Shopping in Cologne

Not far from the Kolumba Museum is the birth house of the original Eau de Cologne. They still sell 4711, dating all the way back to the 18th century. Included is also a small fragrance museum, where the history of the perfume can be viewed.

Cologne is well known for its assortment of interior design stores. Most of them are located along the Ring, formerly the old city wall and now a major traffic artery splitting the city centre in half. One of the most exclusive is pesch, carrying various high-end furniture brands.

The discriminating gentleman on the prowl for a new wardrobe addition will find Cologne to offer a lot of exquisite boutiques. The best ones can be found off the beaten path, away from main shopping boulevards and the big store chains. They are tucked away in side streets, mainly in and around the Belgian Quarter, or “Belgisches Viertel”. This is the trendy part of town, home to designers and smaller specialty stores for fashion, jewellery and interior design. Herr von Eden is one of the best menswear brands in Germany, with boutiques in three cities, one of them Cologne. They carry everything the modern dandy needs, such as dress shirts, tailor made suits and bow ties. Citta di Bologna boasts high-end brands such as Dries van Noten, Maison Margiela and Rick Owens. Another unique, and more eccentric option is Monsieur Courbet. This shop is home to elegant street wear from relatively unknown labels, as well as a curated selection of vinyl, with an onsite DJ treating customers to the latest tunes. Marvellously traditional Jürgen Eifler is a must for gents who love to complete their look with a stylish, custom-made hat. Stepping into this space feels like entering the era of The Great Gatsby.

Päffgen | Photo: Claudia Schwarz

Päffgen | Photo: Claudia Schwarz

Where to eat in Cologne

Visiting a Cologne Brewery and having some Kölsch, paired with German food, is obligatory. The best breweries can be found outside the bustling tourist area, one of them being the historical Päffgen. More contemporary food and drink is on offer on Aachener Strasse, with the largest selection of restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs in town. In the evening and during weekends people swarm here to see and be seen. The most delectable choice is Schmitz. Its features several entertainment options right next to each other: Salon, Metzgerei, Bar Schmitz and a club called Coco Schmitz offering fun gay nights and fabulous disco sounds. The food at the bar and salon is delicious, featuring superb homemade cakes and Cologne’s best ice cream during summer months. To top things off, they serve their own microbrew, Schmitz Kölsch.

A great restaurant a little outside the Belgian Quarter is Acht. Their German fusion food and wines are excellent, but the beautiful interior alone makes it worth a visit. With its industrial chic, rough walls and industrial palette wine shelving it has a nice ambience and unique atmosphere.

To round out the evening with a great cocktail, Spirits is the place to go. The menu is extensive and the dapper bartenders, all dressed in white shirts and suspenders, master their craft. Even better than ordering a cocktail from the menu, is asking for your favourite bespoke concoction.

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